Like your mother told you, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
This prospective study showed that skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk for CV mortality, especially death from stroke.
The most important implication is that when we chose to consume calories seems to matter.
We have seen this in prior studies, that skipping breakfast, even after adjusting for other things associated with CVD, can affect heart health. How precisely is not clear, but distribution of calories may matter.
Those who ate breakfast did not necessarily consume more calories than those who skipped breakfast or rarely ate breakfast.Certainly, when advising patients, it is important to emphasize that skipping meals is not a good idea on a regular basis.
Additionally, what we eat matters too (but from this study, we do not know the quality of the food, ie, what people ate for breakfast).
No one should be too busy to eat, but in the morning, the rush is often on with people getting to work, dropping children off, using public transport, etc. One solution is to make breakfast the night before or have healthy foods that are convenient and prepared or packed the night before.
I do that sometimes with all meal prep, and it works.Breakfast seems to improve weight control, BP, blood glucose levels, cholesterol and ultimately the risk for heart disease and mortality from CVD. Its mechanism is not entirely understood, but it seems to affect the cardiometabolic system and makes metabolism more stable. By providing nutrients at the beginning of the day, it may help with metabolism, glycemic control, in addition to influencing food choices and food quality during the day.
It may be that we require energy and need to provide that energy earlier in the day to maintain normal metabolism. Distribution of calories over the day may help metabolism.
The idea of “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” with mindful food choices is probably the best idea for all of us.It is not just breakfast; it is what you eat that matters too.
Lean protein, healthy fats and breakfast with soluble fiber is what I recommend. It is not just oatmeal (but that is a great breakfast!), but be creative if you do not like oatmeal.
I make combinations of quinoa and oatmeal, or whole wheat, fiber-rich bread with avocado (we all like avocado toast!), or a shake with avocado, vegetables and some fruits can be an excellent way to start the day.
Yogurt, nuts, fruits are easy to grab and far more healthy than eating most breakfast bars that often are high in sugar and fats.
Be careful; read labels, but do eat breakfast. I would rather you avoid the doughnut and grab the banana and yogurt if you have minimal time.
Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA
Division Chief of Cardiology
University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix
Physician Executive Director for the Banner University Medicine Heart Institute
Editor in Chief, ACC CardioSmart
Disclosures: Gulati reports no relevant financial disclosures.